Seeds of the Word - A tasty salt and a shiny light

Photo: Shutterstock/Composite by Ellen Bollard Photo: Shutterstock/Composite by Ellen Bollard

Jesus calls us to be salt of the earth and light of the world.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-14a,16)

Like the beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, the pericope of The Similes of Salt and Light is part of the Sermon of the Mount. Due to its capital importance, we consider it The Magna Carta of the Church. Therefore, Jesus’ exhortation to be salt and light should be taken as a supreme order. In other words, it belongs to our constitution. It is important to understand its meaning. What does it mean to be the salt of the earth? What are the implications of being the light of the world?

Being the salt of the earth

The people of God used salt as a religious practice to purify the gifts to be offered in sacrifice. In the ordinary life, salt was used to season the food as well as to preserve it, just as we preserve meat and fish nowadays. The salt is a symbol of purification, seasoning, and preservation. When Jesus calls us to be “the salt of the earth,” he invites us first of all to purify the earth where we dwell, in order to make of it a holy place. He also asks us to preserve our faith alive through our works and through our words. Also, by defending our faith of any error. Certainly, Jesus wants us to spice our life with a Christian flavor. This is done by bearing such a testimony that, through our life, our brothers and sisters crave for becoming Christians, just like one craves for something tasty. Think of a bag of potato chips. It is its saltiness that makes it impossible to eat just one chip.

But we must be careful. Jesus warns us that if salt loses its taste, it becomes useless and will be trampled. If we live an insipid Christian life, who will crave for being like us? The kind of faith that does not believe and does not trust God, but is superstitious instead; the kind of prayer that is not a dialogue with the Lord but a list of demands; attending Mass without fervor but only to fulfill a precept. How can any of these be tasty? Who would crave for something like this? In the other hand, when we add salt in excess to our food, instead of savory, it becomes bitter. The excess of salt turns the taste of food bitter. Just the same, an exaggeration in our faith can be disgusting. A scrupulous and sanctimonious life just as the acts of piety in excess, instead of being appealing, make people stay away.

Salt must be used prudently. Not too much that it becomes bitter, and not too little that it becomes insipid. Only an authentic and spontaneous Christian life will truly become tasty, will purify the earth and will preserve alive the faith in Christ.

Light of the world

Light is used to extinguish darkness. Darkness brings along uncertainty, fear, angst, pain, confusion and error. Jesus wants us to be the light of the world, to give certainty to those who doubt, hope to those who fear, consolation to those who suffer and the Truth to those who are mistaken. This light must shine, as Jesus says, in our good deeds. For the word may be convincing, but the testimony ends up moving others into action.

In this same Sermon of the Mount, Jesus teaches us the beatitudes. It is by living up to the beatitudes that our life will be the light of the world and with extinguish all darkness, so people can glorify our heavenly Father.

Be passionate about our faith!

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - Abril 2018

Mauricio I. Pérez, a member of St. Monica Parish on Mercer Island, is a Catholic journalist. His website is